This year, I was more fascinated with singles and individual songs than I ever have been before. Thankfully, I did this without losing my love of albums as full pieces. But, there is a certain charm to great singles and hidden gems resting in albums that aren’t good as a whole. So, these are the year’s five best choice cuts.
1. Avan Lava: “Slow Motion”
I found this band through critic Michaelangelo Matos, and I am happy I did. It’s rare for me to love a song so much that I’m willing to call myself a fan despite the group not having any other good songs, but “Slow Motion” is just that good. It’s a top 40-worthy rhythm and blues slow jam recorded by a band that has yet to get 2,000 Facebook likes. It’s also one of my most-played songs of the year.
2. The Avett Brothers: “Live and Die”
One of the best love songs of the year, “Live and Die” was the first single released from the seventh Avett Brothers album, “The Carpenter.” It is an unbelievably addictive alt-country song that perfectly describes the overwhelming feeling you get when you’re first developing feelings for someone. “I wanna love you and more” is an especially wonderful line, delivered with beautiful sincerity. Songs this good are rare. To prove it, the rest of the album has zero that come close.
3. The Magnetic Fields: “Andrew in Drag”
On the Magnetic Fields’ brilliant 1999 album “69 Love Songs,” Stephin Merritt pushed the boundaries of what a single songwriter could do by putting 69 wonderfully written songs onto one album. He wrote more great songs for that album than most songwriters write in their entire career. The latest Magnetic Fields album, “Love at the Bottom of the Sea,” is one of the worst albums they have ever released. Still, it contains “Andrew in Drag,” their only post-“69 Love Songs” track that could compete with the best songs on that album. Along with being a terrific pop tune, it also contains one of Merritt’s best lyrical performances. “The only girl I ever loved was Andrew in drag,” he sings, finally perfecting the gender-bending he’s always loved playing with.
4. Django Django: “Default”
If these art-school indie-rockers had to spend almost fifty minutes annoying me, it’s at least nice that they stopped being boring for three minutes to sing a song.
5. Chairlift: “I Belong in Your Arms”
I shelved Chairlift’s album, “Something,” after one listen. Thankfully, months later, my friends convinced me to give another listen to the wonderful piece of pop music hidden in it. With a couple more listens, the album seemed no less overrated, but “I Belong in Your Arms” has remained a favorite throughout the year. “Cause the world goes on without us, it doesn’t matter what we do. All silhouettes with no regrets when I’m melting into you” is one of the key hooks of 2012, and Caroline Polachek sings it beautifully and with pure ecstasy. When I listen to the song, I want to make it my goal in life to feel like “I Belong in Your Arms” sounds.